Like A Rock
Sookie practically bit through her lip to keep from laughing at my friends in the limo… then while we were waiting to be seated at Outback Steakhouse… then while the waitress introduced herself…
And I was too stoned to really care… sure, I was amused by how obvious they were about trying to identify ‘my’ scent, but I was doing my best to control my facial expressions. A dopey grin probably would have given me away.
Sookie had been smart enough to think of a way to leave sunlight on my clothing and then bathe, so the scent wasn’t definitively connected to her. I’d artfully constructed a lie to blame a fabric softener for the scent, if they had the chance to push for a source…
When Sookie’s phone chimed from the pocket of her sweatshirt hanging on the back of her chair, she nearly fell trying to reach it.
She scooted her chair closer to mine to share the view with me… “There’s a lot. It would be nice if I had a phone with QWERTY keys. This is going to go slow. Stand by.”
In the amount of time it took for Sookie, Cort and Hunter to order their dinner, Sookie glanced at her phone a dozen times and joked that her ears were playing tricks on her.
Connelly asked, “Something happen at home?”
Sookie shrugged. “I’m playing chess with a friend while he waits for a movie to start. He’s on a blind date that didn’t survive the dinner. She picked the restaurant and then cried while he ate veal… What a ditz. Show me a Were who doesn’t love his meat and I’ll show you a Vampire who craves milkshakes.”
The next message from Brandon came through… “Everything I’ve scanned looks like it happened already. Like before she dreamed about it. Maybe her thing was based on the past and just seemed relevant to other things going on. Just spit-balling.”
It was as though he was trying to build the suspense.
Connelly asked, “You’re playing chess on your phone?”
“Not really. I mean, we’re texting our moves to one another, but we don’t have any games loaded.”
She quickly found a conversation with Alcide containing a group of chess moves, with a few scattered complaints and insults, and held it up to show Connelly.
“You’re playing chess on a mental board?”
“Memory and visualization exercises…”
And it didn’t have a single thing to do with her ability.
She giggled, “Want to try it? Do you know the rules?”
While the rest of us laughed, Connelly snorted, “Yes. I know the damn rules.”
“Afraid you can’t keep track? I mean, we’ve got three experienced players who can help you keep track.”
He narrowed his eyes and growled, “What are the stakes?”
“If you win, I’ll answer one question for your nosey ass… But since I’ll win, you’ll babysit so Eric can take me dancing after the ballgame.”
If I didn’t know better, I’d swear he only waited to answer to make it look like he had to think about his answer.
Sookie gave a curt nod. “Pawn to D4.”
“Will you be able to keep track of two games at once?”
“Yeah. I don’t run the same offense or defense at the same time. I’ll be fine. Worry about you since you can’t move a pawn without stalling.”
He growled, “Pawn to D5.”
“Pawn to E3.”
“Pawn to G6.”
Her nose wrinkled when she squeaked, “Really? Modern defense? Wowzers. Bishop to D3…. Eric, the concierge told me about a club on the roof-”
Connelly interrupted, “Bishop to G7,” not amused by how sure she was.
She snorted, “Pawn to F4.”
Edward and Richard looked like they were watching a tennis match.
Hunter snorted, “I got $20 on Mommy. She’s runnin’ tha Stonewall attack. He’s dead, he juss does’n know it yet.”
Hunter couldn’t have been more upset that no one would take his bet, but only an idiot would have bet against Sookie by the time he tried…
She taunted Connelly by describing the club the concierge recommended, and teased him for asking for reminders where certain pieces were…
In the meantime, she’d sent a message to Brandon, explaining she was distracted by ‘liberated chess’, but it wasn’t going to last long because she was on pins and needles.
Connelly had asked her how that game (the one she was supposedly playing on her phone) was going, and she told him she was losing… to a Were… while he was in ‘blind date hell’.
It was a spectacular defeat, and I discovered a new way to fill my idle time while I was on display at Fangtasia… Liberated chess played for personal favors would definitely be more enjoyable than playing ‘Law & Order: Fashion Police’ with Pam.
And by the time the waitress delivered drinks and appetizers, Sookie had secured a retired Knight as our babysitter for the evening.
Sookie was halfway through her second Long Island iced tea (and flushed enough for her ears and neck to be red) when her phone finally chimed again.
“Aunt Lin blamed Winifred’s story on reading The Taming Of The Shrew that night. Brass tacks on Winifred: The dad was a count. She was staring down the barrel of an arranged marriage. Some dude named Strickland. Winnie no likey. Other than being hot & knowing it she was pretty much a guy. Total tomboy in spite of loving pretty things. Sounds like someone else I know. Anyway. She would’ve been fine dying in the process of having fun, but she was not cool with being sentenced to being slowly bored to death, or dying in childbirth like her bro’s wife did. She ran off with a sexy stranger when he was passing through Cumbria from Ireland. He took her to London. He spoiled her rotten and never really told her no. She got her happily ever after.”
There weren’t even any minor discrepancies.
Judging by the way Sookie looked at me when she was finished reading Brandon’s message, she could sense from my reaction how spot on that ‘bedtime story’ had been.
The next text was, “While I’m typing up the next one, tell me how you can confirm any of it. How the fuck did this come up?”
She replied, “It’s a really long story.”
After a moment, he replied, “Then take a potty break or something. I’m going to get carpal tunnel from the next one and my hands will be too sore to tease you about something else I found.”
Sookie looked at me for a minute before turning to Edward and Richard, because Connelly was still pouting about his chess loss. “Do you guys mind if Eric and I run out for some fresh air for a minute? My brother’s probably the most excited of all of us to go to the Caymans. He wants me to call him about an idea he had.”
Good cover story.
Knowing Connelly was likely to be nosey, especially since she’d already teased him with a chance to be told ‘the big secret’, we walked out to enjoy the privacy of the limo… and Brandon answered halfway through the first ring…
“Seriously, the more I scan, the more I’m sure Aunt Lin was some sort of psychic. It was fun before, but she didn’t take it seriously for a second. That cow was distracting us with jokes.”
“Jesus. What all is there?”
“Nope. Your turn. What was the keystone?”
“We ran into one of Eric’s friends down here. He sort of had custody of a younger Vampire and her name didn’t just ring a bell, it rang the Tsar Bell… I mentioned another name I remembered Aunt Linda ‘dreaming up’ and that made two of Aunt Linda’s leading ladies that Eric knew.”
“So… Aunt Lin was dreaming about Vampires? Like before they died Vampires?”
“Seems like it.”
“Fucking hell… I was thinking maybe they were just people… You need to hug whoever the fuck Adléta is. She needs it.”
That didn’t bode well.
“Shit… Hit me.”
“Aunt Lin started with, ‘Percocet and talking about what poor V and Trey went through during dinner made for one hell of a nightmare. I’ve been up for three hours now and can’t shake it…’ Do you remember that?”
Sookie sighed, “The dinner, yeah… I offered to give them some of Cort’s baby stuff. They got wrangled into staying for dinner. I put my foot in my mouth by saying something about how excited they must be for their first baby. I figured they just had fertility issues because Trey’s 40. I didn’t realize they’d buried two babies.”
“Of course not… but it explains why Adléta’s story starts with ‘this was definitely worse than what they went through…’ Apparently Adléta’s husband turned her in for causing her own miscarriages or some shit. It was a cover for the fact that he was gay and couldn’t get it up to fake it like normal closet-teers… She ended up getting sentenced to death, but some guy came along before the execution and took her. He offered to give her a few years to give him an heir or he’d kill her, but at least she’d have the chance to be a mom… One of Prince Charming’s servants, like a member of his court or whatever, was really nice to her, but Prince Charming was a big enough dickhead that Aunt Lin said she wouldn’t write it all out. Adléta was kept in a dark room. The only exercise she got was pacing circles or when he’d fuck her or send other people to get their jollies. She ended up having seven kids. Two sets of twins that didn’t make it because they were too small and three other kids… Prince Charming took the three healthy ones, denied being the father because they didn’t look like him, and ordered the servants to kill them. The servant, Aunt Lin called him a Knight, the one that was nice to her, had just taken the youngest one to kill it, then Adléta killed herself… Can’t fucking blame her. The Adléta section is several pages, front and back, and it made me want to cry for the poor thing. I mean, Prince Charming tied her over a table the first time she tried to reject one of his friends and encouraged slaves and shit to take a turn. Cocksucker. No wonder paternity was up in the air when he was passing her around.”
That sounded exactly like something Halfdan would do. Every fucking bit of it. Why Wouter hadn’t staked the prick was beyond me… unless Anna had something to do with it.
I was sure Halfdan caught her trying to kill herself and brought her over for trying to escape her fate of being raped and bred for the rest of her life.
Since Sookie was trying in vain to swallow the lump in her throat, I offered, “Meanwhile, he knew Adléta wouldn’t give him an heir all along because Vampires can’t breed. Out of curiosity, are there any details?”
“Adléta was Bohemian. Hamburg was a stage for all that shit… I wouldn’t really put too much stock on the name of Prince Charming though… I mean, a King named Halfdan. I know she read Beowulf at some point.”
“Unfortunately, that’s accurate. As a Human, he killed his brothers to seize control. As a Vampire, he staked his own Maker for his Kingdom.”
Brandon groaned, “What a complete fuck-stain… So the guy, the Knight, he wasn’t killing the kids like he was told. He took them to his wife… Kinda shitty that he was all lovey-dovey on Adléta, with a wife at home, but Otto, Gregory, and Adelheid weren’t killed. He kicked himself in the ass for not telling her before, but he couldn’t risk being overheard.”
Those names weren’t coincidental… Otto and Adelheid were Bohemian royalty and Gregory was a pope in the early 13th century…
“Did your aunt mention the adoptive mother’s name?”
“No, but it said no one thought twice because the kids had red hair like her.”
I’d assumed Wouter had a Human wife, a cover, a live-in maid to fuck and feed from. It was such a common practice everyone assumed Edward’s widow was serving the same purpose for me when she stayed in Eijsden… Most of my friends jokingly congratulated me for finally getting on the bandwagon.
Unless Wouter just had a preference for red-heads, which I probably would have noticed at some point since we spent decades together under Tyson and Rodrigo, Wouter had taken Klaasje’s children to Anna.
And then something else occurred to me…
“Is there anything else?”
“There’s a couple of notes on the bottom… to… I guess you could call them sequels… She dreamed Otto died, some disease, but Gregory got sick too. He made it. He ended up growing up to be a Knight, for some King… She mentioned she had the dream after watching Mad Max because she couldn’t find the remote or get up. Not sure about that connection…”
Except one of Anna’s children was serving as a Knight for Tyson in Australia under the name Johan.
What a wasted fucking ability… to not realize she had an amazing gift…
Brandon continued, “And the girl, Adelheid- damn names sucked back then, she was married and had a couple of kids… but she got sick and almost died. She was quarantined, but once she was better she went to live with her dad, well, adopted dad… Aunt Lin finally got that his name was Wouter. And the kids grew out of their red hair… Gregory ended up being a dishwater blonde and Adelheid’s hair got really dark. Anyway, that’s about it for the Adléta Codex.”
Bronya… And she’d been one of us, part of the conspiracy to help Nicholas and Wouter embarrass Halfdan.
Wouter hadn’t just spared Klaasje’s infants from being murdered… He’d actually raised them… and brought one over himself.
“Your aunt’s ability was extraordinary.”
Sookie offered a sad grin and Brandon huffed, “So, you know the Halfdan prick…”
“I know all of them. Adléta, Adelheid, and Gregory… The Knight, Wouter, didn’t take the children to his wife. He took them to his Maker. Gregory and Adelheid were brought over. They’re on my short list of friends.”
Sookie mumbled, “No Vampire mentions though. That’s weird. She knew about Vampires and Weres the whole time she was doing those diaries…” She sighed, “Maybe it was… Being Human was their reality, Adléta’s, that’s what she saw… so that’s what Aunt Linda dreamed?”
Brandon grumbled, “That’s not… she mentions Vampires later… Maybe it has to do with the person she’s focused on. Adléta didn’t know she was surrounded by Vampires, for Winifred it was just about being free…”
I offered, “It’s not as though it really matters. I strongly recommend that nothing in the diaries is taken for granted. It’s safe to say your aunt’s ability was inspired by her surroundings and it was simply mistaken as an overactive imagination.”
Brandon snorted, “It probably would’ve helped if she let us suss it out though. She was really flippant when we brought it up…”
Sookie argued gently, “She was bitter about it though. She had an excuse since we kept saying ‘psychic’. The mental image of psychics includes warnings and whatnot… I caught her thinking that if she was a psychic, why couldn’t she save Daddy or try harder with Hadley or find a doctor who could get ahead of her cancer.”
He huffed, “Yeah. Fair enough… So me and Jules are staying here for the night because I’m sucked in. I’ll make notes as I go and email you anything tasty I find… Can I tease you now?”
Sookie rolled her eyes and sighed, “About what?”
He cleared his throat and started with what I think was supposed to be a Linda impersonation, “Dear Sookie, Feel free to bellyache about men being assholes anytime. The leading man in last night’s dream was a humdinger’.”
Sookie laughed, “This oughta be good… Go ahead.”
“It says she was pretty sure Rex has a thing for you because of all the clothes…”
I asked, “What clothes and who’s Rex?”
Sookie offered, “Rex Pearson is my boss, the owner of the dealership, and the clothes are his personal victories… He has a trophy wife who hordes and spree shops. She says she needs it and Rex passive-aggressively proves she doesn’t by raiding her closet. I wasn’t working there for long before he brought a bunch of boxes to me. Most of it still had tags on it and she’s yet to notice even though she’s seen me in stuff he took from her and mentioned she had the same thing at home. Ashley benefits too…”
Brandon added, “By extension, Ashley’s boyfriend benefits. Less trips to the mall.”
I chuckled, “And you don’t mind wearing stolen property?”
Sookie snorted, “Stolen from where? She hasn’t worked a day since she said ‘I do’. He’s giving me stuff he paid for…” She stretched her leg out, and pointed to her boot. “I wouldn’t ever pay $400 for a pair of boots, or for the jeans I’m wearing… If he was giving it to me because he thought I’m a charity case, I’d pass it on to the Salvation Army, but he’s legitimately proving a point. Oh, and even better, when he recognizes something he passed to me, his mind doesn’t go to the gutter; he thinks ‘thank God someone’s wearing it’… I’m not a war profiteer; I’m just enjoying the spoils of war.”
Brandon chuckled, “And Candy’s leather fetish makes it even easier to justify participating… Back to the soul mate?”
Sookie giggled, “Yeah. Please. My steak’s getting cold and I’m missing Edward and Richard cutting the boys’ steaks for them.”
Brandon argued, “The boys can cut their own steak.”
“They’re messing with the Vampires who rarely handle food.”
Brandon laughed, “Big surprise. They’re evil? Your kids? Nawwwww… Fuck. Back on track… Aunt Lin said you’d meet someone you don’t have to lie to or babysit… and you told her to stop harping and go dream up Mr. Perfect… ‘Tall, blond and handsome, even in battle-mode he’s sexy as hell… he’s someone who’ll respect your differences instead of just tolerate them.’ Then the next section says when she told you about Mr. Right, you told her you’d put him on your to-do list as soon as she was better… so she drew a picture for you just in case she didn’t get better… Are we going to waste time being surprised there’s a sketch of Eric in the margin? I guess she didn’t want to leave any room for error.”
No, not surprised, especially not after how quickly I was drawn to Sookie… but Linda’s ability… it was easy to see why it went undiagnosed for her whole life. Vivid dreams about ‘people’ she’d never met. Connections to situational stimuli…
Sookie raised an eyebrow at me and offered, “I’m not going to waste any time. I remembered her description, and she really churched it up for the diary. It was so damn X-rated I blushed. I guess she figured Gran would read it eventually.”
I shook my head. “I’m not either… I’m trying to pinpoint the nature of her ability. She was making connections between Vampires she had no knowledge of…”
Brandon offered, “Speaking of connections, that’s when all the other shit started. The bedtime stories she was chalking up to medication induced dreams. I’ll let you know if I find anything that could be a Vampire connection from before that, but since Eric knows the other ones you mentioned, I think there’s a link… like dreaming about Eric opened some weird door for her. Until then, everything I can find is about people we already knew. Family, family, family… then all of a sudden, Eric…” After a moment of page-flipping, he offered, “Winifred, Mane Nyan, Adléta, a complaint about that cartoon Anastasia because it made her dream the little boy, the Romanov prince, was brought over and she watched him drain what seemed like hundreds of kids before she woke herself up, an entry that wasn’t even a dream. She thought she needed to adjust her meds because they were causing hallucinations… she said she was out with Jack and they were stopped at a light when she saw Elvis in the car next to her. She said he was the best impersonator she’d ever seen, but what made her notice him was she heard a cat hissing…”
She wasn’t the first one to question her sanity after an encounter with Bubba.
Brandon stopped when I started laughing, “Needless to say, her diaries should be combed… They should be transcribed and organized to reduce wear and tear on her actual documents.”
Brandon scoffed, “I’m still reading them tonight.”
I wouldn’t have been able to wait two years, so it wasn’t as though I could argue, but Sookie snorted, “Because you know Gran won’t be home to getcha.”
“So! I’m not going down for this! Your idea, not mine!”
Sookie giggled, “I nominate Eric to tell her what we’ve been up to. He’d be forgiven. He’s allowed to say ‘fuck’.”
I chuckled, “Cowards.”
Brandon snorted, “Don’t judge us… You haven’t been whacked with a spatula. You can’t hit an old woman back.”
I opened my mouth to agree, but the door to the limo opened… and Connelly joined us.
Sookie said, “Gotta go, Brandon. The dinner police have come to take me away.”
Connelly sat across from us with his eyes narrowed. “I’m surprised you’re still clothed.”
Sookie giggled, “Me too. My brother’s chattier than I am though.”
He nodded and stared at her for a moment, and I was sure he was trying to break her.
She asked, “Is my steak mooing for me?”
He nodded again. “And what idea did your brother have for your shipwrecking?”
“He wants Eric’s property manager to take really detailed pictures of the property so we can organize a treasure hunt for the kids ahead of time… and he wanted to know if Eric could translate clues to Spanish or something so we’d have an excuse to wait for sunset.”
She thought on her feet too well… if I didn’t know better, I’d have bought it.
“It didn’t take so long to discuss that.”
She shook her head. “I told you Brandon’s chatty… and you heard last night how jealous he is that we’re at the Series.”
“That’s not everything.”
She giggled, “Nope,” and continued to stare at him. Unwavering.
“I sniffled… My brother found a note from our aunt who passed a couple of years ago. She was like a mom to me… sue me for being sentimental.”
He growled at her answer and offered, “I heard you.”
She snorted. “Nice try. You only just left the restaurant. You went through the back door and circled around the car hoping to sneak up on us.”
He broke eye contact with Sookie to scowl at me when I started chuckling.
“What are they? I heard part of your conversation at the stadium last night. I’m sure it doesn’t matter because, if it did, you’d keep a lower profile. I caught myself trying to figure it out while I was feeding, for fuck sake.”
At least he wasn’t asking as though she was a threat.
Sookie shrugged and offered, “No skin off my nose.”
She was leaving it up to me?
I asked him, “Do you have any guesses?”
“Nothing that makes sense. Second born? The lawn reeked of Were, even in the rain. The lad wouldn’t smell like Were until he’s old enough to shift. Stranger things have happened. It wouldn’t be the first time you fucked a Were. They are more durable.”
Thank you, asshole.
Just for that… “Alright… Sookie’s a second born. Her husband shifted.”
“And Cort was self-conscious about that?”
Sure. Why not.
I nodded and Sookie offered, “It’s not like Shreveport has Were/Vampire mixers. Unless there’s a paycheck involved, we stay out of y’alls shit…”
This was going to be fun.
She shook her head and reached for my hand apologetically. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean-”
“I know what you meant.”
She reached for my hand again and argued, “Not like that… I meant y’all tend to treat the pack like a temp agency…”
“I do not!”
She tilted her head to the side and snorted, “Oh really? How many Weres’ numbers are in your phone, huh? You’ve got all kinds of work going on for Klaasje’s place, Weres working inside and out, but I bet the only Were who’s programmed is Colonel Flood because God forbid you bother remembering what tricks they can all do!”
“Don’t concern yourself with who’s in my phone.”
She growled and left her seat in a huff, shoving the door open and stomping away from the car…
The blood on top was that she was mumbling little insults under her breath. “Fuck you in your dead ass,” was my favorite.
Connelly chuckled, “You should go after her… Your cock won’t suck itself, brother.”
He was having as much fun with our ‘lovers’ quarrel’ as I was.
I left the car and easily caught up to Sookie but when I grabbed her arm, she yanked it away and snapped, “Don’t even.”
I almost laughed.
Since that hadn’t worked, I moved around to stand in front of her while she batted my chest and tried to keep me from holding her still.
Once I grabbed her wrists and held them behind her back, she licked her lips and mouthed, “This is fun.”
She wasn’t exaggerating. Connelly was watching as he took his time crossing the parking lot.
I growled, “You need to watch your mouth.”
It was painful to keep a straight face.
“You need to let me go so I can eat my dinner… You know, it’s what us lower life-forms have to resort to since we’re in the middle of the food chain, asshole.”
I raised my eyebrow. “Does the waxing moon have anything to do with your outburst?”
She gasped, “You bastard! Let me go! I’m going home!”
Connelly chuckled and warned her, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, love. You’re only second born. You’re his puppet.”
No. I was hers…
When Sookie broke character and started laughing, I followed suit.
Connelly, on the other hand, was less than amused.
He snarled, “Gobshites,” when he finally realized we were fucking with him.
Sookie laughed, “Would you believe I’m Kitsune?”
“Now you’re making fun?”
Sookie nodded. “I am a Faerie, after all.”
There it was… the needle of truth in the haystack of bullshit.
“You’re a conniving little bitch, that’s what. You two deserve each other.”
I released Sookie and offered, “Watch yourself. You wouldn’t want to piss off the wrong Witch.”
He groaned, “Fuck you both.”
Sookie giggled, “Don’t be sore about it…” He let her grab his wrist and begin pulling him back into the restaurant.
“I’ll be sore if I want to… you’ve been running that con since last night. And the long walk on the beach seemed like a cover for a long talk…”
Even better… he assumed the hints he’d gotten the night before were part of a joke.
She shook her head. “No… I needed to check in with the Mermaid King of Florida.”
He snorted when he tried keep from laughing. “I hate you.”
She giggled, “That’s okay. Zombies don’t have feelings.”
He groaned, “How much material do you have?”
She giggled again, “Tons and when I run out, I’ll just consult my crystal ball.”